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20
May

USDA Continues to Track Pesticide Use for the 2009 Fruit Crop

(Beyond Pesticides, May 20, 2009) USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will reinstate its annual pesticide reporting survey for the 2009 fruit crop. This decision is a partial reversal of a Bush Administration decision last Spring to cut the entire data collection program that was met with widespread criticism from environmental and agricultural groups, exporters. Funding to reinstate the full program in 2010, which is included in President Obama’s proposed budget, is currently before Congress.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service has tracked chemical usage in agriculture since 1990. The program conducts surveys on pesticide usage on agricultural commodities, with surveys for fruits and vegetables conducted on alternating cycles. The fruit chemical use surveys are conducted in the odd numbered years. Apples, cherries, citrus, figs and peaches are just some of the fruits monitored.

In May 2008, USDA abruptly halted NASS citing an $8 million program shortfall. Environmental groups wanted the survey reinstated because it contains valuable information about which pesticides are used in sensitive watersheds and which affected public and environmental health. The information was also widely used by universities and food industry researchers to help farmers monitor and reduce the amount of pesticides they use. A coalition of 44 environmental, sustainable farming, and health advocacy organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, urged the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reverse the decision.

In July 2008, the U.S. Senate put the program back in the 2009 Senate budget bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted language that reinstated USDA’s chemical usage reports in the 2009 budget and directed the department not to disrupt ongoing market analysis reporting and to notify the committee in advance of any termination of other programs. “It was found very quickly to be the only source of unbiased information,” said Joe Reilly, associate administrator of NASS. “It usually doesn’t happen that way, that you get support from all sides,” he continued.

Aimee Code, water quality specialist for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), said the survey results are versatile. “It is good for almost everyone. It gives baseline information,” she said.

The reinstatement of the fruit survey is positive news, but Ms. Code said she is disappointed that the program is solely focused on agriculture. The survey would be more helpful if it included urban uses of pesticides as well, she said. Results from the 2009 fruit survey will be published in July 2010.

Source: Capital Press

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